Firgrove Court, a small estate of 28 maisonettes, social housing, a quiet estate arranged around a large grassy area, close by Farnborough town centre, is earmarked for destruction for the car park for a superstore.
Half of Farnborough town centre is to be destroyed to make way for the superstore. The people who live in the flats above the empty shops are like the residents of Firgrove Court, to be kicked out of their homes.
KPI who bought the town centre centre six years ago, have already laid waste to the town centre by emptying it of retailers. February 2004, they applied for full planning consent. End of June 2004, they obtained outline planning consent. Although what no one understands is why KPI has two planning applications running in parallel.
There has been no consultation: either by KPI the developers, Pavilion the RSL for Firgrove Court or Rushmoor the planning authority.
Questioned on this lack of consultation at a recent meeting between Rushmoor and Pavilion to hear an explanation for the piss-poor performance of Pavilion as a RSL, Mervyn Jones (Pavilion chief executive) was forced to admit that there had been no consultation, not unless 'my door is always open to concerned tenants' is classed as consultation.
In a letter to the local press, Jones claimed Pavilion were making no money on the disposal of Firgrove Court. All they were getting were 30 flats (in two blocks on an old industrial estate) and meagre compensation for the tenants who are being forced to move (a measly £1500 per household).
Many of the shorthold tenants have already been forced out, their homes trashed, kitchens and bathrooms ripped out, to render them uninhabitable. This in a borough where people are homeless and there are 3,500 on the official waiting list.
Firgrove Court occupies a sizable piece of real estate, in a prime location in a town centre. If it was cleared for housing, and replaced by high density housing, with no open space (the norm in the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor), there would be 50 or more dwellings on the site.
But Jones asks us to believe he is making no money. Or at least to believe that Pavilion is making no money.
In fact, on his own admission, Pavilion are losing money if we take account of the loss of rental income from the trashed and empty flats.
The residents at Firgrove Court understandably do not want to move. Firgrove Court is 1950s era, good solid brick buildings arranged around a large grassy area, safe area for the kids to play, but deemed a waste of space by greedy developers and the planners in their pockets. The tenants are being told to move to two blocks of flats with no large open area. They are being forced to move by years of neglect: gutters pouring water down the walls, rotten doors and windows, plaster falling off the walls, rising damp etc. Harassment by neglect?
The residents of Firgrove Court do not want to move.
Why then is Jones so keen to kick out his tenants, go to all this hassle, if no money is being made? It does not make sense.
Maybe further questions should be asked of Mervyn Jones (Pavilion) or Simon Rutter (KPI).
Mervyn Jones 01252 368601 firstname.lastname@example.org
Simon Rutter 020 7499 5666 email@example.com
If the issue is raised, it is very very sensitive.
KPI have a legal agreement with Pavilion, designed, according to KPI, to protect the interests of the tenants. The tenants were not even aware of its existence, let alone have seen the contents or agreed the contents. Request for copies of this agreement have been refused.
There has already been one legal challenge to the outline planning consent by one of the Firgrove Court tenants. This forced the original outline planning consent to be quashed and the whole process started all over again.
There may well be more legal challenges.
Watch this space!
Keith Parkins, Town & Out II, Corporate Watch, 14 January 2004
Keith Parkins, Farnborough town centre judicial review, Indymedia UK, 18 February 2004
Keith Parkins, Sell out of Farnborough town centre, Indymedia UK, 5 June 2004
Keith Parkins, Delivering the final death blow to Farnborough town centre, Indymedia UK, 2 July 2004
Keith Parkins, Audit Commission savage Pavilion Housing Association, Indymedia UK, 27 July 2004 http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2004/07/295403.html
Keith Parkins, Social housing under attack, Indymedia UK, 5 August 2004
Keith Parkins, Social housing crisis, Indymedia UK, 12 August 2004
Keith Parkins, Privatisation of council housing, Indymedia UK, 16 August 2004
Keith Parkins, Homelessness in Rushmoor, Indymedia UK, 19 August 2004
Keith Parkins, Crisis meeting at Pavilion Housing Association, Indymedia UK, 24 August 2004
Keith Parkins, Pavilion Housing Association in Crisis, Indymedia UK, 25 August 2004